If you think the recent photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban—now appearing on the Internet near you—is a cheap shot, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Or, at least, you haven't seen the arsenal of cheap shots now on display at CafePress.com, an online store that at last count featured more than 900 anti-Obama designs for sale on some 33,000 T-shirts and other tchotchkes.
Indeed, just as Matt Drudge posted the photo of Obama dressed in local garb during a visit to Somalia, which some have alleged was forwarded by the Clinton campaign, the same image—on more than a dozen T-shirts and sweatshirts—was selling on CafePress.com, along with a cornucopia of "Barack Obummer" campaign buttons and "Osama Obama" onesies.
Ranging from silly to downright offensive, the designs are created and uploaded by millions of would-be entrepreneurs, who then pick which products to emblazon them on and even set the price. "We have a review process that keeps out too much love or too much hate," CafePress CEO Fred Durham says of the more than 250,000 designs displayed on the website at any given time.
Much like what sometimes happens on eBay, offensive stuff occasionally slips through the cracks, such as a recent T-shirt depicting Obama in a Nazi uniform alongside Adolf Hitler under a caption reading, "Don't Be Fooled by Propaganda."
"We'll probably shove that one back to the legal department," Durham says after being alerted to the recently posted product.
Offensive or not, the products in CafePress's election section can offer a great preview of what's to come, as new items—like Somali Obama—are often added before the news even breaks. And because the entire operation is tracked online, Durham says sales trends can also offer a clue to where the election is headed.
For example, sales of Obama paraphernalia have surged ever since his first "Yes We Can" speech, and "almost all of it is positive," Durham says of the results of the CafePress meter, which shows Obama outselling his rivals on both sides of the political aisle by about 4 to 1.
Sales of Hillary Clinton items, which were ahead early on, have been evenly split for months between positive ("Hillary Can Do It") and negative ("Life Is a Bitch, Don't Vote for One"). Hillary haters are also more inventive—CafePress currently features about 3,660 anti-Hillary designs, seven times more than those against Obama.
And while sales of Mitt Romney items have long since dropped to zero, "McCain isn't really rising," Durham says of the Arizona senator's meager 2.93 percent share of overall election sales, "which could be a good indicator of how the general election is going to go."
After all, what better way to judge who people are going to vote for than by what they're actually willing to spend money on?
Here's a sample of the anti-Obama items now on sale:
Muslim Obama Throw Pillow: This photo comes from an appearance last summer, when he shared the stage with other Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa and, unlike Hillary Clinton, who put her hand over her breast, instead clasped his hands in front of him. (For what it's worth, John Edwards did the same thing.)
(CafePress is currently considering whether to remove it from the site.)